Category Archives: Yoga

Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 2 April ’13

Notes for the past 2 weeks might still make it online, or not.  But here is what we did last night:

1. Start with the Dancing Cossack, which is beautifully taught here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGnQ99bkHqA

I don’t know this teacher, but to give credit, I learned this for Gwyn of ZenThai who you all need to meet!

2. From Cossack, go into side position with the inseam of your downleg on their back belt line.  Lean forward, hold their thigh with your thigh/rib and pull UP and back.  This is tricky.

3. Wrap hands around hip and swivel back and forth, use your hip in the same way to allow the leg to move with the hip.

3. Apply trigger points on outside of hip bone.  Use weight into thumbs, go straight down.  You will know when you are on it.  For more on TP go here or to triggerpoints.net, especially this link: http://triggerpoints.net/triggerpoints/glut-min.htm

5. Put hands on either side of body and go in circles in the direction of digestion, channel some heat to tummy.

6. Sink into QL with thumbs.  Again, no pressing.  All leaning in, slightly more each time with exhale.  Option, hook hand together under body and lift up (with legs) to stretch the QL the other way.

7. Extend QL with on hand on ribs, holding, and the other on hip tugging, gently, down.

8. Reach up to shoulders and lean back, if you want hook hand into triangle at neck.  Lean back.

Here is a video of the first part of that, I will work on getting better video clips to share here!

http://youtu.be/0ZmM9w_huWw

Remember, you can never start to slow or too gently, and it is always your weight, not force that works.

And, of course, we ended with the chant.  Which is getting better!

In Metta.

Om Namo Amitabaya

I recently added a Thai Massage class at the studio I teach at… I decided that each class will end with a chanting of on of my favorite Pali chants… Om Namo Amitabaya.  Much as every yoga class I have ever taught ends with Sri Dharma Mittra’s blessing “Be receptive to the Grace of God.”  (Except for those corporate privates where the “religions stuff” is not allowed, then I just sneak in energetically, but don’t tell them that.)

First time through was a bit rough.  They will get it.  But I looked online for a video to share that people could listen to and get the hang of it.  The great thing about this Yoga gig is that you keep running into old friends in odd places.  For example, a wonderful teacher I trained with once, David Lurey, has a YouTube video with a nice version of the Om Namo Amitabaya.  I’m sharing it now so students can come and listen.

I think David and  both learned this mantra at Acro teacher training, which I think they learned at the Thai Massage Circus, which I’m pretty sure came from learned at the Lahu Village made famous by Ashokananda.  I’ve chanted these words in all 3 places and I’m love this mantra.

Me practicing Thai at the TMC

As I was listening to some ONA videos on YouTube I heard some people saying “Buddhaya, DhaRmaya, Sanghaya…”  which sounded odd to me since I always sang ”Buddhaya, DhaMmaya, Sanghaya…”  You see Dharma is Sanskrit, the “language of Yoga” and associated with Hinduism by Westerners.  But Dhamma, Dhamma is Pali, the language spoken by the Buddha.  (Yes, the same Dhamma that is the dhamma.org of the Goenka Vipassana school) So to my mind this chant makes more sense with Dhamma, not Dharma, as it is clearly a Buddhist chant.

Then I read this great post about other similar words, Sutta/Sutra, Kamma/Karma, Nibbana/Nirvana.  Where it pointed out that Pali is more associated with one major branch of Buddhism than another… “Traditionally Theravada as practiced in Thailand has been using Pali with Sanskrit being used in Sri Lanka and some Asian Mahayana countries with local languages while Mahayana uses both plus local languages.”

Call me Theravadan.

Anyway, if you are coming to the Thai class, listen to that video and learn this chant!

Thank you Maharaji

I came home last night a bit drained from a long day, but luckily my beautiful wife was already home and she’s a bigger KD fan than I am… the house was full of rich sound of Krishna Das’s voice.  Magic.

I walked up to bed and there was a pile of books, Be Here Now, by Ram Das on top of KD’s bio, Chant’s of a Lifetime.  How I enjoyed reading those…  Almost as much as I LOVED watching the documentary about Ram Das, Fierce Grace (free, on YouTube).

Today, FB told me that Jai Uttal was having a concert in DC in October.  (I’ve bought my ticket, are you coming?)

And now, I’m at my desk being productive with the lovely chanting of Bhagavan Das in my ears.

What on earth do all these things have in common?  Shri Neem Karoli Baba (नीम करोली बाबा) or Maharaji, was their Guru.  They all spent time with him in India.  Lama Surya Das and humanitarian Larry Brilliant also were with him, but they are not all over my life… yet.

They all spent time at the feet of this man (or was he really Hanuman?) and they have all had incredible lives that are continue to shape the face of American Veda (to borrow a term from Phillip Goldberg’s recent book, which I can’t stop reading…)

So for the past few hours, where your students have filled my time with beautiful mantra, fond memories of movies and books, and warm expectation for a concert in my town… thank you Maharaji.  And for all the less obvious blessings, that I’m sure are flowing too!

राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम राम

 

AMAZING photos of the MJH event…

As I mentioned after the event, it was such a rich full lovely day, even when the rains came.  And I said that photos were coming… well due to the incredible talent of Jan Hanus, our official event photographer, Jan Hanus, those photos are up and you have to see them.  Please, if you use these photos, credit Jan.

Thanks also to Bobby, Rodney and Chad who also took photos and shared them as well.

 

Best cue I heard all week: Take your Xiphoid process in… ???

I heard something in a yoga class, with Kim Weeks yesterday that I hadn’t heard before… As I was in class tonight, with Marie Belle, it was hard because MB has lots of great cues, but I found myself thinking… “can I tuck the xp here?, what happens when I tuck it there?, how have I never done this before?”

Let me interupt myself to say something about those two teachers I just mentioned, one is famous, one is going to be.  Kim has been voted best teacher in DC for two years.  Why I only took a class from her this weekend is beyond me, but at least I’ve started.  She taught me quite a bit in 2 hours, especially this XP thing we’re going to talk about.

Dr. Marie Belle… I could fill a blog explaining how when I call her incredibly gifted, in terms of practice, intellect, communication ability, presence in the class room… it is an understatement.  She’s off all the charts.  But I’m not sure you’d really get it.  If you are in DC, take a class from her.  If you aren’t, don’t worry, she’ll be famous soon, I’m calling it.  Since I’m not going to explain how good she is, I’ll leave you with her FB profile shot… this picture is incredible. (Someone send this to YJ!)

Back to the XP… How many times have you heard it?  ”Tuck the tail bone.”  It is generally heard in the vicinity of “pull the tummy up and in” or “draw the pubic bone up” (which often results in confused newbies!)  But these are all after the same thing, shortening the front body; containing the energy, expanding through the back body.  All good things which improve the integrity of a variety of poses from Mountain to Wheel.

It matters because many Yogis walk around with hyperflexible lumbar joints… In English: Yogis can crank their lower back way open, some of them seem like they have a hinge joint where the rest of us have a spine.  And while this is good for photoshoots and contortionists, it may not mean they are using their front body which means less integrity, less solidity, less connection.

If you are willing to believe that shortening the front body is useful, keep reading.  If you need convincing, this isn’t the blog for you, I’m just trying to share a good cue.

Tailbonetucking, pubicbonepulling, tummyinsucking, is all well and good, but it only addresses the bottom of the core.  Especially for those of us who have cultivated open lower backs.  What about the top?  Again the anatomy-inspired teachers come up with something like “Broaden your back, pulling your ribs up and in, lengthening your back body…”  And I’m confused.  After years of A-inspried classes, I’m still not sure I know how to move a rib. 

I need one point, on my body that I can touch, that will help me move all those other things I’m not sure I know how to move.  I need the Xiphoid Process.

Try it.  Pick a pose.  Heck, sit at your desk reading this.  Tuck, pull, etc. Pretty good.  Now, take your Xiphoid Process and, on the exhale for good measure, pull it into the body.  Put a finger on it, to be sure, it is the little bit sticking out at the bottom of sternum, between the ribs.  When I do that with the TuckPullEtc.  My whole back opens up.

Even better, when I do it backbends, yes, backbends, I feel all sorts of wonderful stretches.  Let me know if this was helpful.  What are your favorite cues?

What a good day…

Today was a good day…  elephantjournal.com ran a blog about teaching yoga which I submitted to them last week, and it has been great getting feedback on it.  Better than that, though, today we did the 108 suns in the park for Michael Joel Hall.

If you haven’t read all the press–the links are here–a DC teacher was mugged 2 weeks ago and we started raising funds to help him with medical costs.  The response was incredible and we declared victory on our fundraising earlier this week.  Today we had planned to have over 500 yogis in a large DC park to do a big fundraiser for MJH.  But instead we turned it into a party to celebrate our yoga community, since we had raised enough funds.

A dozen teachers today offered 8 or 9 suns to the hundreds of yogis who braved the rain and joined for 108, slightly muddy, salutations.  The teachers were some of DC’s finest (listed below) and for those reading from afar, DC has one hell of a yoga community.

The weekend was lovely, but the scattered thunderstorms rolled in half way through our practice.  By salutation #15 it was drizziling a bit.  By #90, it was full on rain.  And do you know how many left?  Almost none.  Because the magnetism of practicing in community is so much greater than the annoyance of a bit of rain.

How could you leave when a dozen teachers and 200-300 yogis were practicing to celebrate something bigger than us?  A big thank you to MJH for finishing strong and to everyone who came, especially the teachers.  Today we raised the vibration.  Everyone I have spoken to since the event is calmly elevated.  There were a few photographers running around, I can’t wait to see their shots, for now I’ll share this one, but when you see those shots you will understand, this was special.

I don’t think teachers get together enough.  We’re all running around teaching!  But today was magical, I feel like DC could handle a few more Maha classes.  But that will wait for another post, today, I’m just writing to say… Great Success, thank you for coming and practicing with us in the park or wherever you were.

 

Teachers:

Tova Steiner
Pleasance Lowengard Silicki
Marshall Sanders
Mimi Rieger
Gail Harris
Kevin Waldorf-Cruz
Luke Lukens
Keith Moore
Derek Waddy
Augusta Zoe Hemann
Betsey Poos
Mike Graglia

 

Dreaming Bear… and Michael Hall…

Two great stories to share… I want to tell you about DreamingBear and give you an update on Michael Hall, I have just sent the MJH update to Elephant Journal who will  be posting it today.

So let me tell you who I met this weekend… in Nantucket.  We were visiting the wonderful Massachusetts island of Nantucket for the weekend and due to “many good karmas of the past” (who knows where that line comes from?) it turned out to be the weekend of the first Nantucket Yoga Festival!  We already had a plan for the weekend but we took two classes, one from Sadie Nardini and another that I’m still trying to figure out if I liked it.  Regardless, I’ll be there for the whole thing next year.

Sadie was incredible, but I’ll save that for another post… let me tell you about the soul she invited to teach with her, Dreaming Bear “The Modern Day Rumi.”

Let me be honest, my first impression of the image above might give me pause about taking a workshop.  ”Modern day Rumi”?  That seems strong.  Rumi was a great mystic, we don’t have those today.

Wild LoveOr maybe we do.  The Rumi section in my copy of Landinsky’s Love Poems from God is well worn (as is The Gift and all his books really.)  I love the language of romance applied to the divine, the seeming frivolity applied to something as serious as seeking God, the wisdom laughing its way off every page.  And now I love one more book along these lines, DreamingBear’s Wild Love.  ”Modern Day Rumi” suddenly feels dead on.

Maybe it is because I worked hard on a yoga mat lead through lovely vinyasa by Sadie while Dreaming Bear played his instrument and occasionally shared his words (and those of Hafiz, Rumi, and others).  Maybe because I soaked in his vibrations in those two hours, this is why when I opened his book tonight I was filled with such delight.  Maybe.

Or it could just be that good.  I haven’t finished the book yet, it is too rich.  You don’t wolf down a rich organic truffle like you would a Greens+ choco bar (is this TMI on my eating habits?)… no, no, you nibble and savor.  I will enjoy this book for days.

But I’m terrible about good news, I have to share.  This book is awesome as is the author.  When I spoke to him after class and bought a book and CD, I was really grateful to be meeting him.  ”This guy is the real deal” I thought.

I’m already looking forward to meeting him again.

Starting again…

If you take a Vipassana retreat from the Goenka school, you will sit for hours and hours listening to the same sessions (taped) that have brought so many to meditation.  I’ve done 3 of the 10 day retreats, and each one was simply wonderful.

Wonderful once they are over, that is.  During those ten days of silence and solitude, wonderful can only be used to describe the experience on days 9 and 10.  Days 1 – 8 are just rough.  Some times during the long sits, after the instructions have ended, the mind tends to wander and then suddenly, you hear the voice “Start again.  Start again with a calm and quiet mind…”

Start again.  Any Vipassana mediator will chuckle if you use that term.  We have all been brought back by those words.  And, as usual, Goenka-ji is right.  It is what we need to do, when we fall off, when we wander, when we stop doing something we want to be doing, like meditating.  Like blogging.

So, I’m starting again.  I can thank Vicky Hallett I suppose, she wrote two yoga articles today in the DC press and quoted me in both.  (One about changes in the DC studio scene and another about Yoga District, where I teach).  So like Goenka’s words surprising me as my mind wandered, Vicky’s thundering pen has reminded me that I opinions and I like to share them!  Thanks Vicky.

Stay tuned…

 

Today’s must reads in Yoga – on Sex Cults and Anusara

When I set up this blog, I had visions of book reviews, occasional insights and musings on the DC yoga scene.  But then the NY press declared war on Yoga and Anusara blew up.  I’ll get to those other ambitions later, but for now, let’s try to keep our attention on this fascinating developments.

Anusara - Here is there just one article to read, Doug Brooks letter explaining why Anusara should simple disolve instead of trying to reinvent itself.  He is responding to the announcement by the new Anusara CEO announcing a 50/50 split with JF.  I tend to agree with Doug Brooks, but as we can see Anusara is big business, and while it may be the right thing to do, many people will cling to existence of a nice big branded tent, and (?) who knows how much money is flowing in the form of royalties, product sales and endorsements.  Like I said earlier, it is starting to look like all these resignations are just step one in what will be remembered as the great Anusara Fire Drill, everyone out, and then back in.

NYT/Sex Cult(Sorry about the graphic, I just thought it was too perfect, maybe they put Broad up to this?) William Broad’s article in the NYT drew fire from me and others yesterday, but today I read three great responses, if you have the time here are they are any why you need to read them:

  1. Please join my sex cult is just entertaining and does a more thourogh job than I did of pointing out how absurd that article was.
  2. Yoga and Tapas speaks directly to the ancient obscure origins of yoga and reminds us that there is not one core text, despite some teacher training progam’s penchant for telling new students that the Sutras are that.
  3. Sex and Yoga: A Broad distorted view of Yoga history offers a useful primer on Tantra

Happy reading!

Thank you Dr. Broad, that was amazing. (Re: Yoga as a sex cult!)

In one feel swoop Dr. Broad has made amends to the yoga community.  I offer my gratitude.  Yesterday’s NYT article makes up for the silly injury article you wrote earlier and that book you wrote where you evaluated “Yoga”.  About that book, I thought Cathryn Keller said in best in the Post when she wrote:

At the big-picture level, Broad loses his footing. His de facto definitions of both yoga and science are too narrow for the complexity of his subject. He announces early on that he will not explore “meditation and mindfulness, liberation and enlightenment,” leaves the brain science of meditation for others, ignores Ayurvedic medicine, and does not analyze the complex historic relationship between science and yoga in colonial and postcolonial India.

Sorry she was tough on you Dr. Broad.  But for this article, thank you.  You have not only discredited yourself in one stunningly absurd sentence but you have also given us yogis advertising we could never afford.

Your litany of studies showing how yoga improves sex lives is dead on.  Generally, we don’t put this in the marketing materials, since we don’t want to devalue the sacred and useful teachings we are sharing, but your article will surely get this poorly kept secret out.  I look forward to more new students.  Thanks for the press.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in you after the whole book thing.  It is good of you to fall on your sword by saying something as idiotic as “Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult…”  Wow.  Can I please get your source on this?  Because the last time a student asked me how yoga began it took me 3 hours to explain that nobody actually knows.  The best I could do was point to the chart below from Alison Hicks.

Dr. Broad, don’t be hurt by the angry blogs out there.  (I mean Naomi seems mad, but she still has a sense of humor she does mention her awesome… -ness)  I see what you are up to with this and I appreciate it.  Most everyone who reads this article will surly see how you have taken gross oversimplification and simply making up ancient history to new heights.

Have you considered staying with science?

 

Updated: See more responses described here.